Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Exploring Socio-Economic Challenges Faced by Female Headed Households in Rural Districts: The Case of Manama Village, Matebeleland South Province in Zimbabwe

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Exploring Socio-Economic Challenges Faced by Female Headed Households in Rural Districts: The Case of Manama Village, Matebeleland South Province in Zimbabwe

Article excerpt


In many countries, female headed households are rising and experience numerous challenges related to poverty. Feminisation of poverty has become a critical global issue, largely as a result of the Fourth Women's World Conference in Beijing where alarm about rising female headed households was raised. It was pointed out that 70% of the world's poor are females (Chant S, 2011). In developing countries, female headship is very high in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa, with 50-54% of the poor being female headed households (UN, 2009). Rural women in female headed households throughout developing countries make critical contributions to household production yet they are poorer than most male headed households. These women taking care of families single handedly, own less land, houses and livestock than men (UN, 2009).

In Africa, existing customary and statutory laws limit women's access to land and other types of property, this leads to vulnerability and poverty. The poverty experienced by these female headed households manifests itself in ill health, hunger, malnutrition, limited or lack of access to education, inadequate housing, homelessness and lack of participation in decision making (UN, 2009). These strategies have not brought adequate positive change in the lives of female headed households because they fail to take into account that poverty is gendered (Chant S, 2011). These female heads face water, healthcare and food shortages.

Regardless of feminization of poverty having attracted global attention and moving governments to draft poverty alleviation strategies, most female heads in Manama village, a rural district under Matebeleland South province in Zimbabwe, are very poor and in need of financial assistance. Since 2000, the poverty in this rural community worsened largely because of the on-going political and economic crises in Zimbabwe (UNDP, 2011). While the whole country has suffered as a result of the collapsed Zimbabwean economy, the rural communities have suffered the most because of the subsistence nature of their economic activities.

The situation has been exacerbated by natural disasters such as droughts and floods which have led to a persistent reduced food output in Zimbabwe (ECHO, 2015). They depend on subsistence agriculture and natural resources to survive. Traditionally, Zimbabwe's economy is agro-based and the bulk of these small scale farmers are women who engage in agriculture more than men thus playing a crucial role of ensuring food security at household level. However, this means of livelihood is unsustainable due to unreliable weather patterns or enough to cater for their household needs so they live in abject poverty (UNDP, 2012). Studies on the challenges within female headed households are important in the poverty eradication agenda.

Moreover, aid distribution literature and research is silent on gender issues and it is not clear whether women get first preference when it comes to aid distribution. This suggests that desired outcomes in humanitarian aid can only be achieved through mainstreaming gender with interventionist strategies considering that women are the most affected victims (Musekiwa P, 2013 ), considering that women and men often highlight different concerns and perceptions regarding poverty alleviation strategies. Women prefer receiving financial aid to start irrigation gardens to produce vegetables for sale, poultry keeping, materials for sewing clothes and selling, whereas men prefer livestock rearing and cultivating maize (Milazzo A, 2015).

Therefore, it is important to explore the challenges faced by rural female household heads. Ways in which aid of different forms could empower women especially in rural communities in significantly lasting ways should also be investigated. It is important to find out what poverty alleviation strategies are in place and their impact on the lives of rural women. An impartial examination of facts surrounding the complex interplay of female rural poverty is necessary. …

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